Thursday, March 01, 2007

Inge's Exploits At #9 Unprecedented; A Retired Number In His Future?

It used to be the throwaway spot in the batting order. A place where the team's worst hitting position player resided. Only batting ninth because it was impossible to bat him tenth.

Brandon Inge isn't the first #9 hitter to have a significant impact on his team's offensive production. But he, I believe, is the premier ninth hitter of his time, which is right now.

In 2006, Inge had 542 at bats. In them, he managed 27 homeruns and 83 RBI. You'd take that from plenty of #4, #5, or #6 hitters. But Inge accumulated the vast majority of these numbers hitting ninth in an order that was most dangerous, it seemed, the further down you traveled it. No team in baseball got more production from the 7/8/9 spots in the order than the Tigers got last season. Not even close. This is a lower third that includes the powerful and clutch Craig Monroe, don't forget. And often, the smiling, competent-swinging Sean Casey.

But it's Inge who's the topic du jour. He's revolutionizing the #9 spot, I submit. It will be interesting to see how many other major league teams follow the Tigers' lead and place a power and RBI guy who might normally hit in the middle of the order down at the flat bottom. Of course, not many lineups feature bats as impressive as the Tigers do, one thru nine. But still, Inge's unprecedented production at #9 will surely cause other teams to rethink their paradigm.

He does all this offensive stuff, while at the same time carving himself a place as one of the game's finest third basemen -- a position he learned on the job. He'll be 30 this May, and entering the prime of his career.

Brandon Inge, I am telling you now, has a great chance to be the face of this Tigers organization for years and years. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being a lifelong Tiger -- the 15 to 20 year variety. It's not even too much to suggest, frankly, that his #15 may never be worn by another Tiger again.

Who else, do you think, has a better chance of being the next Tigers player to be so immortalized after his playing days are done?

Unlike the old time #9 hitter, who you placed there in the hopes that you could hide him, Inge hits #9 because nobody else does what he does from that spot in the batting order.

The Tigers as trend-setters?

Other MLB teams could do a lot worse than to try it on. But they don't have Brandon Inge, so anyone else they try will be a knockoff. We have the original here.


Blogger Ozz said...

Well, as far as suggesting which current Tigers are worthy of having their numbers retired someday, I'd probably wager that there are maybe a couple pitchers who might be discussed before Inge.

I'm glad to see that Inge has been able to develop the way that he has. Even when he wasn't doing as well, he struck me as a 'scrappy' player who played hard and put in an honest effort, which is the kind of player I like to watch.

3:43 AM  

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